Duluth, Minnesota

The place I connect with is Duluth, Minnesota. When I was young, every Saturday my family would to Duluth to visit my great-grandparents who lived on 101st Ave W. It’s actually called Gary-New Duluth, the farthest point west you can go in Duluth. My great-grandparents owned an old building that dated back to the 1910s (or something) that housed a bowling alley. My great-grandfather renovated it in the 1960s or so, had 6 apartments upstairs, their apartment was at street level, and their spacious underground garage was the former bowling alley. Both great-grandparents were born and raised in that area and they remained there until their death.
On Saturday visits, my family would pack me up and leave the Twin Cities, arriving by 11:00 or noon. The adults would visit and I would play. Mid-afternoon, everyone would venture out in our 2-car motorcade to dinner; the Pickwick in Downtown Duluth, Elbow Room in Superior, Tappa Keg, in West Duluth, The Shack in Superior, or get a Sammy’s Pizza. After dinner, we would return to the apartment, watch TV, and visit. By 8/9 pm, we would turn around and drive the 2 hours home. Every Saturday. Sometimes, Saturday was the only day everyone was together after a long, hectic week.
So there we were, one big 4-generation family under one roof. Duluth felt like a second home to me as we spent many a trip taking in the St Louis river, Jay Cooke State Park, the harbor, and of course, the graves of my great-great grandparents at Oneota Cemetary. Then my grand-parents died. We didn’t go up for many many years.
This past Fall, my parents, girlfriend, and I went on an overnight to Duluth. Now we were tourists. We weren’t a big family anymore. We drove past the old building, saw the Serbian Orthodox church my great-great-grandparents helped build, the old stomping ground seemed so foreign and cold. But we made a new connection for our new generation to enjoy. I realized the area I felt connected to, the same area that attracted my great-great-grandparents. It was the vegetation, the contour of the hillside, the blue Superior where time stood still and I felt the same connection, the same emotion I felt years ago, when I was young. I just wished my great-grandfather was there to enjoy it with me. I still miss him.